Strong earthquakes struck a mountainous stretch of central Italy early Wednesday, killing at least 38 people, trapping scores under debris and setting off tremors that awakened residents in Rome, nearly 100 miles to the southwest.
The first, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake, struck at 3:36 a.m., about 6.5 miles southeast of the town of Norcia in the Umbria region, followed by about 40 quakes over the next three hours, including a 5.5-magnitude temblor at 4:33 a.m.
The death toll, reported by the Italian news media, was almost certain to rise, given that scores of people remained unaccounted for. The authorities said the first quake was comparable in intensity to a 2009 earthquake in the Abruzzo region of central Italy that killed more than 300 people.
Towns across three regions — Umbria, Lazio and Marche — were devastated by the quakes, which could be felt as far away as Bologna in the north and Naples in the south. The towns of Accumoli, Amatrice, Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto were reported to be among the most heavily damaged.
“Half the town no longer exists,” said the mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, who added that rescue teams were digging through the rubble, “hoping that most people were alive.” The historic center of the town, with buildings dating to the Middle Ages, had been destroyed.
“The problem is removing people from under the rubble,” he said. Asked how many people he thought were still trapped or dead underneath debris, he said, “many, many.”
New York Times